Thursday, November 02, 2006

Five Simple Tips for Rejectors

Receiving a rejection letter is never a pleasant thing. Whether it's from a company you wanted to work for or an agent who read your manuscript, it hurts to find out that you're not wanted. But, there are a couple of simple things that the writers of rejection letters can do stop rubbing salt in the wounds of the letter receivers.

Tip #1: Spell my name right.
Sounds so simple, doesn't it? You have it right in front of you, from the cover letter or the application or the manuscript. I once sent a query letter to an editor and misspelled her name. In her rejection letter, she made several harsh albeit relevant points about her opinion of that mistake. I never made that mistake again. (And, because my next query letter took every point in her rejection to heart, I ended up getting the piece commissioned and ended up doing a lot of work for that magazine.)

It's a simple matter of respect. People's names matter and if you can't take five seconds to make sure you got it right, then I don't feel like I matter all that much to you. Plus, I might just be a slug in the bottom on the slushpile right now, but someday, when I make it big and you want to lure me away from my publisher, don't think I'll have forgotten that you spelled my name wrong on the rejection letter.

Tip #2: With the magic of computers, mimeographs are no longer acceptable.
Really – print out a fresh rejection letter with a personalized name of the victim (properly spelled, of course). Like double-checking, this takes only seconds and at least marginally personalizes the processes. Getting a “Dear Applicant” letter or, worse yet, a letter that has my name handwritten into the “Dear” line, adds extra oomph to that punch in the gut you're sending me.

Tip #3: Sign the damn letter.
Especially if it has a line for your name. I got two rejection letters (different jobs) from the same company recently. In both, the HR Director didn't sign her name, even though the line was clearly there. I know you're busy, but it's another basic matter of respect. And you know what, I don't know what your signature looks like. If you are so important that you can't be bothered to sign your correspondences, then surely you have a secretary who can take care of it for you.

Tip #4: Don't tell me that you'll keep my application on file and notify me when suitable positions arises.
We both know you're lying. I bet you're the same type of person who tells a date that you'll ring them when you have absolutely no intention of doing so. I have gotten at least fifty letters that have made this claim. I've never gotten a single phone call. Maybe I'm just that unqualified, but somehow, I doubt it.

Tip #5: If you call me in for an interview, have the decency to reject me and not just leave me hanging.
This is infuriating. I've taken the time to dress up, come to your office, and answer your questions. The least you can do is send me one of your crappy form letters. What you should do, out of courtesy, is to ring me and tell me that you've decided to go with someone else. When you don't acknowledge receipt of applications, it is understandable due to the presumably high volume of applications you get. When you put me on a short list, call me in for an interview, and then don't communicate with me again, I get the impression that I am so unimportant, I'm not even worth a proper rejection.

Personally, I'd like to get a rejection letter telling the completely unvarnished truth. Something short and sweet like “You suck. We wouldn't let you work here if you were the last applicant on earth.” Now that's the sort of place I would like to work.


At 2 November 2006 at 15:50, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Add to that: Don't steal my fucking paperclips.

Yes, Certain Irish Agent. I'm talking about you, bitch!

At 2 November 2006 at 17:26, Anonymous jannie funster said...

This Is A Brilliant Piece, Ann!!! So well stated, from start to finish. Funny and great writing,with genuine feeling. I'm sure if you pursue it, you'll get it published by someone with both balls and heart. You'll really show those thoughtless name-mispelling, etc. etc. jerks one day. Jannie

At 2 November 2006 at 21:12, Blogger -Ann said...

SL - I am intrigued. Is a certain Irish Agent breaking into your house and taking paperclips?

Jannie - Bitter experience, put to good use. It was those two unsigned letters that sent me over the edge.

At 2 November 2006 at 23:37, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Certain Irish Agent stole a paperclip from a submission of mine once, the sow.

Having said that, of all of them I've spoken to she seemed to be the only one with any integrity. Even if she does have kleptomania.

At 3 November 2006 at 00:58, Blogger Career Guy said...

I forget where the bit comes from, but somewhere there is one that goes like this: "I am sorry, but I am unable to accept your rejection letter at this time. Due to the great volume of rejection letters I receive, there is no place to properly store yours, so I am returning it you." Or something like that.

At 5 November 2006 at 11:31, Anonymous ainelivia said...

Once upon a time I received a wonderful rejection letter, from someone who took the time to hand write, with suggestions as to what I needed to do.

In fact it was so good I wrote back and thanked them.

And they wrote me back saying that they had never had a thank you for a rejection letter.

Sadly the reject letters are more like the one you describe.

At 5 November 2006 at 13:34, Anonymous james said...

people still use mimeographs????

At 6 November 2006 at 21:12, Blogger -Ann said...

Dad- Yes, I believe I've heard that one before.

AnnaLivia - Those are the best and they are so rare these days. I got one from an editor once, although it was a bit more on the harsh side, but I totally deserved it. It was a Chicago parenting magazine and I was pitching a hum-drum story that used sources from England PLUS, I spelled the woman's name wrong. Thank goodness this was all done via email. If I'd been in front of the woman, I'd have wanted a portable hole to swallow me up.

BUT, I took her criticism to heart, came up with another idea within 24 hours and prefaced my next query letter with apologies and thanks for her honesty. My persistence and willingness to take on criticism impressed her, I got the assignment from the second query letter and ended up having a very productive relationship with that magazine. Her ten minutes of venting her thoughts made me a much better writer.

James - Sadly, I got a rejection from a publishing house in the South somewhere, Tennessee I think. It was a picture book I was pitching and the rejection letter was a mimeograph, with my name written in, AND someone had spilled water or something on the letter so that the print had run. Now that's class.


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